Review: A few days in. Photographer in love with the 13" TouchBar!

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by Richard Peters, Jan 26, 2017.

  1. Richard Peters, Jan 26, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2017

    Richard Peters macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Surrey, UK
    #1
    Relatively long post this one but I feel it's warranted to get my thoughts across accurately.

    UPDATE: I've added some thoughts on post #32 after spending two weeks with the machine working in Lightroom, on a photographic safari.

    The backstory:
    My equipment is used to earn my sole income as a wildlife photographer and I understand there is almost always a compromise somewhere in a purchasing decision. I buy whatever fits my workflow needs the most efficiently based on how I prioritise those compromises. Admittedly though, I was partially dreading my TB13 arriving (3.3/16/512) because there has been so much negativity surrounding these new machines.

    This is not my main machine. I use a fully loaded 2012 iMac for my heavy lifting because I feel any laptop is a compromise on ultimate power so I used a 2012 11" Air for light editing on the move, writing articles and running Keynote presentations when I host talks. Despite not being a 'pro' labelled machine, I needed portability over power, so it was every bit as 'pro' as my needs for a laptop required.

    Now those needs have changed a little and I require more power on the move so, despite being barely two days old, here are my thoughts so far...

    Build:
    I hadn't seen one of these in the flesh until mine arrived so I was amazed at just how thin it is even after seeing photos of it online. The build is typically first class. For me, the priority in a portable computer is the portability. Personally, I think it's phenomenal just how small and light this thing is considering the specs and as I travel with a lot of heavy camera gear I greatly appreciate the advancements in reducing the weight and footprint, which now isn't much larger than my old 11" Air, as the image below demonstrates.

    [​IMG]

    I do miss MagSafe. I never had an issue with the old charger and my original one from the MBA is still going strong despite dragging it all over the world. If nothing else, a charging LED would be nice on the new cable.

    I thought I'd miss the lit Apple logo on the lid but the white plastic suddenly looks very dated compared to the sleek mirror finish of the logo on the MBP.

    Battery Life:
    I have Dropbox and Adobe CC running in the toolbar and use Ghostery for Safari. Bluetooth and Siri are both off. My first 24 hours with it went as follows:

    • I charged it to 100% then took it off battery power at 230pm.
    • I played around with screen brightness during the first hour or two but eventually settled at 50% and used it on and off most of the afternoon and evening to write a magazine article in Pages, surf the web and play around with setting it all up. I also didn't notice the keyboard backlight wasn't turning off until about 8pm but I then read the fix for the bug on here and got it behaving properly.
    • It slept all night from 11pm to 10am and used 5% power during that time period.
    • I used it on and off all morning to write some emails, visit several websites and update to macOS 10.12.3.
    • It slept from 130pm to 8pm at which point it had 20% left (drained about 3% in that sleep)
    • I used it until the 5% remaining warning came on at 9:43pm. At this point it had been off of mains power for just over 31 hours although Activity Monitor was telling me the usage time on battery was 11 hours 22 minutes, so I'm not sure what that's actually referring too?

    I turned off wifi the second night and noted there was zero battery drain from midnight to 930am. So it seems having wifi on allows the machine to perform tasks when asleep, despite all Energy Saving settings and Do Not Disturb being on. No major deal but it would be nice to have zero drain when sleeping without having to turn off wifi manually.

    I did notice when using Pages the laptop heats up quite a bit. The fans don't come on but it is noticeably hotter so I presume that'll mean Pages uses more CPU power than I would have expected.

    Keyboard:
    I've never tried the 12" MB so was concerned how I'd find these shallow keys but so far I like it a lot more than I expected. I would prefer it to be a little quieter but I quite like the clickiness of it. I've spent a good few hours writing on it so far and the more I write, the more I enjoy. That being said I think there is definitely an adjustment period which I haven't quite broken through the threshold of just yet. That said, going back to the 11" Air keyboard after two days the keys seem tiny and the entire thing feels very old and cumbersome.

    I have had the letter 't' double type three or four times, so I'll keep an eye on that. At first I thought it was just me but it's the only letter to have done it, so it might be a sticky key although I can't replicate it when I try.
    Keyboard backlight seems much dimmer on low setting compared to my old Air, which was very bright even at 1 or 2.


    TouchBar:
    I didn't purchase this machine based on the TB but more based on how much power I could get for the smallest footprint. I have the TB set to display the expanded control strip and I've removed the buttons I don't need, and grouped the ones I do left and right with a space in the middle. Having the customisation is really nice and I'm not fussed about the contextual stuff within apps (unless Adobe do something cool with Lightroom) so all the most used things are always where I want them, laid out how I want them. Whilst not currently a game changing workflow tool, I expect it to mature in time and become more useful.

    [​IMG]

    I was surprised to see how low resolution it looks compared to the Retina screen. That's not to say it's bad but it certainly looks a little fuzzy with all that beautiful crisp text directly above it!

    I get why Apple didn't expand the TB to the far left of the strip area, so it balanced with the Touch ID, but I'm torn between appreciating the symmetrical look and feeling like it's wasted space.

    It bugs me the escape button is shorter than the rest, so even with an equal amount of buttons either side of the TB, it's not quite symmetrical.

    The shortcut to the screensaver is very useful for me as it means now have an impromptu slideshow of my work always ready to go.


    Screen:
    I'm coming from a 2012 11" MBA. What else is there to say? Actually, what I will say is I'm surprised at just how crisp everything looks to my eyes at all resolutions. Even 1680 x 1050 looks impressive and easily usable should I ever need the extra space. I have it set on default for display (scaled to 1440 x 900) and find the difference in text sharpness between that and 1280 x 800 to be negligible when looking close, and identical at a normal working distance.

    My iMac screen now looks a little naff, so I am more eager than ever to see the 2017 iMac refresh happen!

    Trackpad:
    Love the size. No accidental clicks or issues with Tap to Click enabled. It's my first haptic trackpad and I like it a lot.

    Thunderbolt/USB-C only:
    I replaced several cables so I can still connect exactly the same things as before with the same amount of cables as before. Job done. Having a bank of ports that can perform the tasks of any other port is far more in keeping with a high end machine in my view. For those using it primarily on a desk, you can now use a hub to connect everything, via one cable, and hide it away. Far more elegant than multiple cables coming out of all sides, IMO.

    I buy a laptop with the intention of it lasting 3 or 4 years so I don't want something that will be compromised in flexibility or port speed a few years from now, which is what a USB-A port would have been. To be at the cutting edge of technology I can live with having to compromise in the short term with new cables, which are not a burden.

    I think the ports would possibly benefit from being a little further apart.

    No SD reader:
    For me it's of no concern as out of the 10 DSLR's I've owned over the years, 7 never supported SD and the newer ones that do, offer it as a secondary, slower, slot against the faster CF and XQD (and soon, I expect CFast). I value the ability to clear the buffer and send files to the computer as fast as possible, so having a high-end laptop that only supports the slowest card format never made sense to me anyway, even if it is the most popular amongst vloggers and enthusiasts.

    Performance:
    I've not really thrown anything big at it yet. However it'll be coming out to Africa with me for two weeks at the start of February for a couple of workshops I'm running, so it'll get more of a workout then.

    Price:
    Like others, my biggest issue with this machine is the price. It's a lot of money. A lot. Especially here in the UK. But this isn't exclusive to Apple. Camera companies are putting prices up too. As an example, the latest 70-200 f2.8 lens I picked up retails at £2599 versus the previous version which is still available now at £1999 (and when it first came out, was about £1599). The version before that retailed at about £1299 on release. Things are getting expensive and it's becoming ever more painful to buy high-end goods! But with that lens, and just like with computers, cars or any goods really, there are cheaper alternatives. Nobody is forced to buy anything so it feels stupid to complain, as I could buy something cheaper if I really wanted.

    Final thoughts:
    I am thrilled with the 2016 MBP. No two ways about it. Blatant hardware failures aside, I feel like a lot of the bashing this machine has been given possibly stems either from resentment in justifying the price or it not being the right tool for the job but people want it to be because it's new and shiny, when actually something smaller, cheaper, lighter, faster, a desktop machine or more legacy connected, is. It's great to have the latest stuff but if it's not the right fit for your needs buy what is and be happy. Mine is now happily living inside it's new Joli sleeve and I'm delighted with it. Perfect tool for the job, both the sleeve and the MBP!

    [​IMG]

    Ultimately, to each their own. All I can say is the TB13" MBP is, for me, simply the best laptop on the market with a perfect balance between portability, power and build. The 11" MacBook Air was my favourite computing experience of all time and I was dreading the day it would need to be replaced. That is no longer the case.
     
  2. David58117 macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 24, 2013
    #2
    What sleeve is that..?

    edit -

    Oh, I missed it in your review!

    How is it?
     
  3. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Surrey, UK
    #3
    Joli Original.
     
  4. rboy505 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #4
    Thanks for the post. Very curious how the Iris 550 is for LR and other image processing that uses the graphics card. In the past it's been pretty bleak but now that the discrete card is only on the one top 15" model (unless you custom order) I'm seriously considering the 13" as my holding pattern upgrade. Have you had a chance to get an opinion about DAM responsiveness?

    Thanks : )
     
  5. jbachandouris macrumors 68040

    jbachandouris

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2009
    Location:
    Upstate NY
    #5
    So, what method do you use to transfer your pictures to it? You mention that 7 of the last 10 cameras you owned were not supported, but you never mentioned what method you use.
     
  6. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Surrey, UK
    #6
    I've not had much chance to run some photos through Lightroom yet as I've been getting other bits done ahead of my travels. Will put some through asap though. Lightroom isn't optimised properly for quad core, but I suspect if power is your ultimate requirement, it's worth sticking with the 15".

    Memory card reader. I have one on my desk that takes everything bar XQD, then a separate one for that. On the road, I take a compact CF/SD reader (there wasn't a CF only one available, when I picked it up) and a separate XQD reader.

    A CF/XQD combined reader would be ideal but probably won't happen if Sony have anything to do with it!
     
  7. BarracksSi Suspended

    BarracksSi

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2015
    #7
    On one side, we've kept seeing people say, "No SD reader! It's not 'Pro'!"

    And here you are, a pro photographer with pro gear, saying (with more eloquence), "IDGAF about SD." ;)
     
  8. Richard Peters, Jan 26, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2017

    Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Surrey, UK
    #8
    Haha I think your wording is eloquent in it's own way ;)

    Seriously though, every photographer will be different with different needs. I personally know a lot of professional wildlife photographers, several sports and two photojournalist and to all, speed is always the biggest factor in camera choice so most use DSLR's that offer CF, CFast or XQD.

    I'm sure others can argue the opposite but I still stand by my original reasoning :)
     
  9. Lihp8270 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2016
    #9
    Beautiful sleeves.

    I have them for both MBP, and iPP. Not cheap, but excellent workmanship
     
  10. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Surrey, UK
    #10
    Excellent. Very high quality and a perfect fit. I wouldn't get anything else!

    Agreed!
     
  11. rboy505 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #11
    I don't have too great a power requirement at all, relatively, generally 500 raws per library and the tweaking isn't overboard. But I try to do as much as I can staying raw and go to tiff if I decide it calls for it, maybe 20% of the images, or staying raw the whole way through buffing up for review images and then going tiff from there with the choices. Some raw DAMs go more to the graphics card than others (IIRC Aperture went full on gpu when exporting) and it can get really sluggish. I'm not a power user but can't stand working at a slow pace while the laptop catches up. Waiting for previews to update makes me crazy : ) I've looked for reviews on the Iris 540 and 550 but they're all regarding gaming not DAMs. My fairly tricked out 2011 15" with a discrete card got me this far, but it just went belly up so I've been using my travelling 13", a 2009, while looking at 2015 and 2016 upgrades, and it's like cold molasses. Word is that the Intel onboard graphics are very decent but I was just wondering if you really could work on images all night and not feel too hamstrung by it.

    So I look forward to your thoughts on how it holds up performance-wise, whenever that time comes. But thanks for your opinions on the rest. What you say about the keyboard is reassuring. When I've checked them out I really didn't like it at all (and was bummed that this is Apple's current keyboard on every new option) but it seems that most who have them start to like it more and more as they use it.
     
  12. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Surrey, UK
    #12
    I'll certainly update the post once I've played around in Lightroom, although it probably won't be until I'm away, as I my main library is on the iMac. I know benchmarks aren't everything but single core scores for this 13" are better than my fully spec'd 2012 27" iMac, so for the processes that don't utilise quad, it'll be interesting to see how they compare.

    Just out of curiosity, and without going too off topic, what's the reasoning behind exporting to tiff for final touchups in your workflow?
     
  13. rboy505 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #13
    Well, there still are some things I can't stop myself from wanting to do, such as high pass filtering a layer for contrast with a variety of light filter choices, or inverting it and adjusting opacity for blurring, erasing where I don't want it, and also adjustng the pixel amount of the high pass. Just a handful of old habits like that that I haven't found a substitute for in raw image editors. Much of the cloning and healing I either can't do the way I want or it's available somewhere I haven't found yet :) (Today I had to straighten up a woman's tilted head in a portrait and lost part of her shoulder in the process, so I took her shoulder from another pic and resized and changed perspective). Sometimes I just need a certain fairy dust for the finish and can't quite do it to my saisfaction staying raw. Brushwork especially I find more limiting in DAMs and it's a better result if I leave it for that. Sheepishly, I still haven't settled on my post Aperture DAM commitment, so for now I'm either in Aperture or demos of everything else, so I'm in the process of discovering which DAM will get me 100% there more of the time, but I'm still slogging through that forest, hence the need to touchup in tiff at least some of the time.

    I'm hoping that the new 13" will work well enough travelling and then driving a monitor back home. The cost difference to a 15" would love to go toward something else : )
     
  14. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2010
    Location:
    Surrey, UK
    #14
    Gotcha. I don't apply so much fairy dust in my workflow so it's not such a big problem keeping with RAW. That said, in Lightroom, you can do your main edit then open the RAW in Photoshop via Lightroom. That would allow you to continue working on the image in Photoshop, from the RAW and then exporting out the final edit to tiff once finished - rather than exporting a tiff half way through to continue working. That could potentially be useful for you...

    The 13" would also run like a dream with Photoshop. It's LR that is the bottleneck.
     
  15. rboy505 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2012
    #15
    Richard, thanks. True. LR definitely has some excellent workflow aspects. I may end up going with it yet : )

    And as far as the SD slot on MBPs, my cameras, Pentaxes, have all been SD, and half of what I do involves location audio and SD cards figure heavily in recorders I've used, but I always felt when the slot appeared it was very un-Apple like. I mean, if you're deleting ports and putting the remainder so close together you can't put two flash drives in at the same time, who's the one lobbying to take up the space wih an SD card slot? : ) And you're making people go out and buy new adapters every year for ever changing ports but you keep the SD slot? Plus, they don't mount first try half the time on any of mine so it's not like they've been the greatest feature (I use a Nexto anyway).
     
  16. Lihp8270 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2016
    #16
    I bit the bullet and collected my new one :)

    But I can't see the touch bar model listed on Joli. Which option did you Order?
     
  17. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

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    #17
  18. Lihp8270 macrumors regular

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    #18
  19. facemeat macrumors member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2016
    #19
    Fantastic read!
    Been looking for an excuse to get the 13 over the 15 model, been recommended the 15 on so many occasions but whenever I go to my local Apple Store I can't help but prefer the size of the 13 (especially since I have a desktop anyways).
    Just a quick questions regarding Photoshop on the 13 inch.. I haven't used Photoshop since CS2, would you say that I'll need 16gb of ram for CS6 or whichever the latest version is? I'm just a hobby photographer so I don't do a lot of editing, but minor corrections mostly for photos for personal use.
     
  20. Dave245 macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2013
    #20
    Great review :) I've been thinking about whether to get the 13" or 15" with touch bar. The only thing that is putting me off the 13" at the moment is that Apple stores only have base models which are 8GB Ram, I'm not sure if that will be enough especially with future proofing my machine like I did with my 2011 MacBook Pro.

    My main useage for the MacBook Pro with touch bar will be for word processing, audio editing for podcasts, blog writing and some video editing with Final Cut X, mainly helping friends out with their videos. I also like to use split view a lot and picture in picture. Ifeel that the 15" could be overkill but the screen estate might be better :confused:
     
  21. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

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    #21
    Thanks! :)

    I don't use Photoshop a huge amount, although it has always performed better than Lightroom on any machine I've owned. Even on my old 11" Air, with 8gb RAM, if I opened large 36mp RAW files in Photoshop they handled nice and quickly.

    If you're a hobby photographer doing minor corrections 8gb will suffice IMO but personally, I always max out the RAM just so I have flexibility of having as many programmes open as I want without issue and for some degree of performance safeguarding further down the road (for every day tasks, my 2012 Air never felt slow even when I sold it recently).

    The question of 13" or 15" comes down to whether you value power or portability.

    Thank you :)

    The general opinion when it comes to video editing seems to be the more RAM the better. Portability is very important to me and the 15" would just feel way too large to have on my lap and carry around. The 13" is barely any larger than the 11" Air but it still feels surprisingly big, thanks to the small bezels and extra screen height. Personally, unless you're doing serious video editing, I would say a 15" Pro is a lot of machine for casual usage - unless you can get your friends who's videos you edit to chip in on the costs ;)
     
  22. Dave245 macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2013
    #22
    Yea that is true, however I only occasionally do video editing for friends, mainly when they have a massive workload and can't fit anymore editing in. I also have a late 2012 iMac which has 16GB Ram so it's not like I have to use the MacBook Pro to do the editing, it's just nice to have the extra portability when I do.

    I could upgrade the Ram on the 13" MacBook Pro and still use the collect service from an Apple Store, I was more hoping to be able to walk into a store and pick one up tho :) but I think Apple only sell the base models at their retail stores, at least here in the U.K. I think that's true.

    So at most I'd be able to get the 512GB with 8GB Ram and a 2.9ghz dual core i5 processor, me not being a super tech kind of guy (I'm more of a writer :)) I'm not sure if that will be enough, or how it would stack up compared to my 15" 2011 MacBook Pro.
     
  23. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

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    #23
    It depends on the processor in your iMac I guess. I still use my 2012 iMac for all my main work (but it's a maxed out machine with the, then astronomical priced, 768 SSD) although I don't use it for video.

    It's in no way a definitive answer but compare the scores between both machines here: https://browser.primatelabs.com/mac-benchmarks

    If your iMac serves you well now with video, it might be worth saving the money and getting an entry level 13" as it would handle all your other tasks with no problem at all I would expect.
     
  24. Dave245 macrumors 601

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    Sep 15, 2013
    #24
    My iMac has served me very well over the last few years, so has my MacBook Pro 2011, it saw me through university and doing heavy work loads, but it's getting old now so I'm thinking about upgrading it. My iMac has good specs I believe, it doesn't have SSD but has the 3TB fusion drive, 2GB graphics card and the 3.4GHz i7 with 16GB Ram.
     
  25. Richard Peters thread starter macrumors regular

    Richard Peters

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    #25
    I'd probably consider putting 32gb RAM in the iMac for video editing and then stick with a cheaper MBP. Best of both worlds! Lots of power for the heavy edits and a beautiful, portable and sufficiently powerful machine for the lighter workloads :)
     

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